The folks at Bay Windows are good people

I read Bay Windows every week, sometimes the print edition but usually the online edition, since I can browse through it while I'm on hold or playing phone tag or waiting for someone to show up. I was particularly excited several months ago when they started including additional content that was updated more often than weekly -- mostly consisting of links to other news sites.

I got a little irritated though when I clicked on a link to a news story and got not only a news story, but a sidebar ad involving a picture of a woman with handcuffs and a whip. She was technically fully clothed and not actually pornographic, but dude, a giant picture of some bondage chick had just popped up while I was reading news at work. Not exactly something I want someone to see over my shoulder. Apparently the story was on a GLBT news site that seemed totally mainstream and professional -- but based in Amsterdam, where such advertising doesn't faze most people.

A couple days later, this happened again; this time, the story was on a Belgian arts and culture magazine's website and was accompanied by a picture of a buff bronzed guy in very short shorts and nothing else, smiling slyly and motioning someone (hopefully not me) to come closer. Again, not the sort of thing I want people walking into my office to think I'm seeking out.

So, I e-mailed the publishers at Bay Windows, telling them what type of stuff had, uh, popped up, and mentioning that I was now being really careful to not click on any external links from their site while I was at work. I explained that I realize the ads aren't actually inappropriate, particularly in the cultures where the sites are based, but that they're not something I expect to see when I'm looking at a site like theirs that I've always considered appropriate for work.

Jeff Coakley wrote back and said that he poked around and found the sort of thing I was talking about, and that it's frustrating because they might link to a site one day when the site looks totally wholesome, but then the next day the same site might have handcuff girl in the sidebar. He said they'd be looking more closely at advertising trends and choosing their links accordingly.
It's been about three weeks now, and I've been clicking on the external links (still mostly at home at this point...) and haven't yet found anything that looked inappropriate. Yay!


Mark D. Snyder said...

With all due respect, it does not sound like any pornography popped up. If we freak out over stuff like that it is a slipery slope down the path of sexual shame. Liberate not assimilate.

eeka said...

No, and if you read carefully, I specified that the stuff was not pornography.

I'm all about healthy expression of sexuality. So is my workplace, actually. It's the human right of the residents in our programs to express their sexuality in a safe and appropriate manner.

It's also the right of our residents and staff to be free from sexual harassment. Viewing sexually suggestive imagery (which includes things that are considerably tamer than pornography, such as minimally clothed people holding bondage gear) is considered sexual harassment by our agency's standards.

This is why I limit my internet viewing at work to things like news sites, which I expect to be free of suggestive imagery.

Regardless of my or your feelings about what's appropriate, it isn't going to go over too well if someone asks why they saw bondage girl on my computer screen, and I tell them I was reading a news article and it had this ad on it. Because we all know that it's a pretty clear standard that legitimate professional news organizations don't run that kind of ad. These weren't artsy photos with a kinky edge to them -- these were shiny, oiled airbrushed people, complete with the sparkly animated stars pasted onto the image. You know, like the sort of stuff that's on porn sites.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Hmm... maybe you should complain to your employer that you can't always help what pops up on the screen due to the nature of pop up advertisements?

eeka said...

Well, I have popups blocked, as we're required to. These ads were in the margins of news stories.

Honestly though, I'd rather not get called into the boss's office in the first place. If someone saw this kind of image on my screen, they're not going to assume I was looking at a news site or bother to analyze how clothed the person was. I'm not going to have very good luck defending myself here --my employer knows that most news websites don't have suggestive ads, so they're going to expect that I choose only websites where I know there's no risk of such things.

We work with people with a huge variety of mental illnesses. If a consumer walks by and thinks I'm looking at scantily clad people at work, that's totally inappropriate. Particularly if someone is already suspicious and easily traumatized because of their nature of their illness and they see something that leads them to view me as lewd and perhaps unsafe, an explanation from our HR people that "she didn't mean to" isn't going to instantly make that person comfortable again. I'd also just rather that there aren't rumors going around that I was looking at inappropriate stuff. It isn't conducive to a good work environment or good relationships with the people we serve. So, I choose to only look at websites where I'm fairly sure this isn't a possibly.

If a site is going to have ads like this, it's going to cut down on a lot of us choosing to think of their site as work-safe. Fortunately, they agreed with me and are taking steps so that people like me continue to think of them as work-safe.

katunia said...

the mozilla firefox browser has an adblock-plugin which might be useful... the adblock project. i don't use it jet but friends of mine say it works well.